Zebra Longwing – Heliconius charithonia

Zebra Longwing butterflies are also called Zebra Heliconian butterflies. Found primarily in Gulf Coast states and the Carolinas, they prefer shadier area over bright sunny locations.

Zebra Longwings lay eggs on passion vine that is growing in the shade or in the open on a cloudy day. They lay eggs primarily on tendrils and the fresh tender tips of growth. They are picky about the species of passionvine they will eat. We have used maypop (Passiflora incarnata), boomerang (biflora), inspiration (Inspiration), and corky stem (suberosa) without problems.

Young caterpillars tend to stay on the tip of the vine, where eggs were laid.

Where populations are heavier or passion vine isn’t covered with fresh new growth, caterpillars often are found clustered on the same leaf or leaves. They are often various sizes, from adults laying eggs are various times on the available tender growth.

Caterpillars hang in a J shape before pupating. Pupae range from light brown/cream to dark brown, almost black.

Chrysalises often pop up in unexpected places. While walking in the woods, we were surprised at this chrysalis hanging from a pine needle right in front of our faces.

The color of the chrysalis depends on its surroundings. On the white lid, they all pupated light in color. On the darker lid, they all pupated dark in color.

Adult Zebra Longwing butterflies fly into sunny gardens to drink nectar although they tend to prefer nectar from plants in the shade.

At night, Zebra Longwing adults cluster, several to many of them sitting together until morning.

Not only do Zebra Longwing butterflies drink nectar, unlike most butterflies, they also eat pollen. They will mix pollen with moisture and drink pollen after it has begun to liquefy.

Zebra Longwing butterflies are known for ‘pupal rape’. The males often mate with females just before the females emerge from their chrysalises. When one mates with a chrysalis, he patiently waits with her until she emerges, expands her wings, and her wings dry. At that point he will fly off with her to drink nectar.